This website has been created for the residents of Abbotts Barton and surrounding areas so that you can keep up to-date with what's going on.

Apart from news you can find information about events, campaigns, and how to contact councillors.

Abbotts Barton Community Group is a community association which serves the people of Abbotts Barton and aims to act as a community anchor organisation. The main areas of work for the Group are:
  • ☐ To enable residents to find out how we can make where we live even better and do something about it.
  • ☐ To run events and activities for the benefit of inhabitants of Abbotts Barton.
  • ☐ To strengthen community participation.

Big Lunch 2014
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Tuesday 26 November 2013

The council's Leisure Centre consultation and the Save the Rec meeting

Yesterday morning I (Sylke) went to the Leisure Centre to see the plans that the council have provided for the public consultation. Like at other consultation before (I've been at two in Abbotts Barton) the boards were promising looking. But as we had been through an exercise like this before I was wary about what wasn't said there.

Out of the four options, to me Option 2 looked the most promising, this is the rebuild of the centre north of the existing centre. This option would mean that the centre is still close to where we live, as simple as that. I soon realised that there was no mention any more of the planned 300 extra parking spaces anymore - so I wondered how can that be? Not that I want them, but if those disappear like that, is there any certainty about anything planned?

Indeed, the plans are very vague, nobody knows how big a new building would really be and how much of the surrounding area would have to be converted into footpaths, emergency access roads, etc. So while maybe Option 2 looks easiest to achieve, and therefore the most tempting to vote for, there is loads of information missing.Without all of that we can't make an informed vote. We might get a monster and then we will be told that we voted for it.

So, in the evening I went to the open meeting that Save the Rec had organised. When I arrived just a couple of minutes late, the room was packed with people. There were probably about 200 people in there!

When I walked down, sadly I didn't see anybody from our side (Abbotts Barton) going down there but I saw loads of people arriving from the Hyde side. I'm not saying that nobody else from Abbotts Barton was there, but there was definitely a marked difference in where people arrived from. I wasn't very happy about that as North Walls is used a lot by people from our area too, and if we go by the letters some of our residents got from the council's officers when they were fighting the council's housing development plans for some of our green areas, all of us should be very concerned about what is going to happen to that green at North Walls! The gist was that we don't need as much green area in Abbotts Barton as we have North Walls so close by. Yes, soon all of Winchester will have to go there as the council is trying to fill many little green pockets with houses! And did you know that the council actually cut down on the open space allocation for play and sport earlier this year?

These are the new numbers (available in the report under business item 13 on this meeting page):
play: reduced from 0.8 ha per 1000 population to 0.5 ha per 1000 population,
sport: reduced from 1.6 ha per 1000 population to 0.75ha per 1000 population
The important bit is that Winchester Town has a shortfall under either the old standard or the new (lower) standard! We can't afford to lose more!

Back to the meeting. The presentation done by the Save the Rec group focused on the uncertainties about the given build options (I will try to find a link to the presentation for you, so that you can have a look for yourself). Just to give you a few examples of what needs to be thought about for Option 2:

  • Were you for example aware of the fact that the cricket field on the green in question right now is just big enough to be acceptable for competition matches; there are 50cm to spare, no more. So if the centre takes up another 5m or 10m (as is suggested on the information board) to the North, the field cannot be used any more for cricket. 
  • If the centre would be built there, there might be implications for the Winnall Moors Nature Reserve, simply because of light pollution.
  • This build would happen on the existing tennis courts: what would happen to that business during the two year that are apparently needed for building?
  • The options given are mostly without any financial information. Option 2 was the only one which had a little of that as it was the only one the council had been pursuing before the consultation exercise was set up.

People at the meeting said the information content on the boards was "worse than a GCSE project" and that the council is "taking us for mugs".

At some point it transpired that the city councillors had even more options on their desks: they were shown to some councillors and then disappeared. The one Conservative councillor who was there - if I got it right it was actually Ian Tait (I was on the other side of the long room) - got asked if he had seen them. I didn't hear the answer properly but it sounded like he had. So why were these options not fit for the public?

A vote was taken in the room about what the recommendation to the council should be, and there was nobody who would have voted for any of the options as they stand right now. Instead the opinion was that the none of the current options are acceptable and that the council should "go back to the drawing board" and give us better information. After all, this is a chance to build something good!

I believe one of the most important things said last night was that Save the Rec are not out to tell what we should vote for: their aim is to save a green area from being built on. However, there are many, many reasons why we should be careful with what we as individuals are going to respond to the council on the consultation! So I urge you to have a look at the boards (and possibly all the other information that's available) while you can and then let the council know your opinion, latest by 2 December! Don't forget you don't have to opt for any of the available options if you don't like them but you still have to tell that to the council so that they know that you are not happy!

Information available:
The council's Leisure Centre Project page.
Save the Rec group website.

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